2016 Classics Challenge: September | Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes


WHEN I Discovered This Classic

I probably became aware specifically of this collection while at University as an undergrad, although before that I had an awareness of Ted Hughes as a poet.

WHY I Chose To Read It

I’d read a lot of these poems before, but not all and never as a collection. I wanted to see what else I came away with when considering them as a whole work.

WHAT Makes It A Classic

As a text, Birthday Letters is an interesting mixture of personal and literary history, as Hughes’ most direct public response to the suicide of Sylvia Plath. These two figures were so influential in their work that their ‘real-world’ connection drew then and still attracts now a huge interest. While the context influences the reading and gives it extra literary interest, the poems themselves are obviously outstanding.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic

While it was definitely interesting to read these poems as a collection, I found it interesting which stuck in my mind longer after reading – which was not the ones I expected to. I also think that reading as a slightly older person, as a married person, I had a little more connection to some of the subjects Hughes approaches.

WILL It Stay A Classic

Undoubtedly – for both of the reasons I discussed above.

WHO I’d Recommend It To

This is always difficult – with poetry especially, I always encourage people to give it a go. If you haven’t read Hughes before, I think this is possibly a better place to start than Crow? But in general, anyone who likes poetry, I think Hughes is an obvious must-read.


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